We’re always told to shop around but here’s the sort of nightmare that shows why so many of us stick with the deals we’ve got.
Barry Parr was cold called by a business called Clear Telecoms and offered a cheaper phone package, with 14 day cooling off period.
He agreed to switch to them and passed on his bank details for the new direct debit.
His existing supplier BT then offered a better deal and so he cancelled the move.
Five months later, in March 2019, he noticed that Clear Telecoms were taking monthly deductions of around £44 from his bank account.
He complained and was told that the company had undergone “changes in management and big upheavals” which resulted in a lot of records being lost.
Barry, from Fordham, Cambs, stopped the direct debits but Clear Telecoms continued to send paper bills, which he refused to pay.
“I called again and was given numerous excuses and gobblygook as to why nothing had been resolved,” he said.
Despite his requests, BT could not take back his line: “They informed me that every time they put in an order, Clear Telecoms either ignored it or outright refused to cooperate.
“I’m at my wits end.”
At this point he searched online and found complaints from many others accusing it of phone slamming, as taking over a phone contract without authorisation is known.
He tried OFCOM, without result.
"I tried time and time again to contact Clear Telecoms but calls are never answered and emails just failed," Barry said.
In desperation, he got a new number from BT and the old one was disconnected.
Then, out of the blue, a company called Transparent Telecom contacted him, saying that it was taking over his original line.
He rang and told them they could do what they liked with it as it was no longer connected to his home and just rings out.
That resulted in Transparent Telecom writing to tell him that Clear Telecoms had gone into liquidation and it had inherited all the customers, but following his complaint he would be allowed to return to BT “free of charge”.
“I thought at last my problems were over,” he said.
“However, I received a statement from my bank which showed that Transparent Telecom had set up two unauthorised direct debits on my account.
“I can only assume they used records they have from Clear Telecoms.
“I find it unbelievable that a company can just automatically set up direct debits when they have not been authorised and even after I informed them that I have no business with them.”
Clear Telecoms is a trading name of PNS Affinity Limited of Hemel Hempstead, Herts.
Companies House lists two directors, 53-year-old Dharmesh Amin and Lee Baines, 38.
The latter ran a company called Just Telecomms UK Ltd, which I wrote about more than a decade ago after it tricked customers into switching to it by lying about being part of BT, and then hit anyone trying to leave with a £460 exit penalty.
I spoke to Mr Amin, who said that Lee Baines had died.
“Now I think it’s been taken over by his brother, Mark Baines, Transparent Telecom,” he said.
“I don’t know much about the telecoms business, I was helping Lee and Mark Baines, I’m the accountant.”
Mark Baines, 35, was a director of True Telecom, which in 2017 was fined £85,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office and £300,000 by Ofcom.
Much like Just Telecomms UK, the True Telecoms sales pitch implied that it was part of BT and customers were charged exit penalties of more than £600.
True Telecoms is in liquidation, so I tried contacting Mark Baines at Transparent Telecom.
I heard back from Phillip Onyett, the company’s director.
He said that Mark Baines “has merely conducted consultancy work for us in the past and assisted in the brokering of acquiring customers."
He explained that is company took over customers from Clear Telecoms in good faith and this included Barry Parr because “The account was never closed down properly, therefore it continued to generate a bill for line rental charges.”
He insisted that Transparent Telecom “takes customer satisfaction extremely seriously” and has now closed Mr Parr’s account, adding: “I will be personally sending Mr Parr an apology for the way in which he feels he has been treated.”
Mr Parr says: “I won’t be listening to any cold callers in the future. This is an episode that I would just like to forget.”